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Published 03 June 2024
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What Does a Good Credit Score Look Like?

There isn’t a universal ‘good’ credit score for borrowers to work towards because financial firms and credit reference agencies all calculate it differently.

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You’ll probably see a different number for your credit score depending on which credit reference agency you check it with. 

However, if your score is in a ‘good’ range with one credit reference agency, it’s likely to be in a ‘good’ range with the others too.

This is because credit scores are calculated based on the data in your credit file, which should be similar wherever you look.

We explain what good and bad credit score ranges look like below, and what it may mean for your finances.

What is a good credit score?

A good credit score, or a good credit rating, is a sign of a healthy credit history and a marker of good financial fitness. It generally means that:

  • you’ve built up a history of making repayments on time
  • it’s easy to check your identity, ensuring you are who you say you are
  • lenders may see you as a reliable, lower-risk borrower

A stronger credit score means you’ll probably have more options for borrowing money, at more competitive interest rates than borrowers with a weaker score.

If you’re wondering what constitutes good credit with each agency, you’ll see healthy credit scores described as ‘good’, ‘very good’ and ‘excellent’.

While not necessarily bad, a ‘fair’ credit score may mean you’ll be charged higher interest rates than those with better scores. It can also mean you’ll be offered lower credit limits for credit cards.

Be aware that each credit reference agency has different ranges and maximum scores, which don’t always correlate with each other. The highest credit scores available are: 

  • Equifax – 1,000
  • Experian – 999
  • TransUnion – 710

» MORE: How to check your credit score

Good credit score ranges

EquifaxExperianTransUnion
Fair*531-670721-880566-603
Good**671-810881-960604-627
Excellent811-1000961-999628-710

*Referred to as Good by Equifax

**Referred to as Very Good by Equifax

  • Experian’s ‘good’ range is between 881 and 960, while an ‘excellent’ credit score sits between 961 and 999.
  • Equifax’s ‘good’ range sits between 531 to 670, but this may be more comparable with the other agencies’ ‘fair’ rating, because Equifax has a ‘very good’ category that the other agencies don’t use. A ‘very good’ score is between 671 and 810 and an ‘excellent’ score sits between 811 and 1000.
  • TransUnion has a lower maximum score of 710. A ‘good’ score sits between 604 and 627 and an ‘excellent’ credit score is between 628 and 710.

» MORE: What is the average credit score in the UK?

What is a bad credit score?

A bad credit score could be a sign that you’ve struggled to meet your financial obligations in the past. It may mean that: 

That being said, a poorer credit score doesn’t always indicate a poor financial situation. It could simply mean that you haven’t built up a history of making repayments, or credit reference agencies’ details about you aren’t correct. And be aware that your credit file doesn’t consider your savings accounts or income, for instance.

Because lenders all calculate eligibility differently, some may still be willing to offer you credit even if your score isn’t perfect.

Luckily your credit score isn’t fixed and you can take steps to improve your credit history. What’s more, financial account history generally disappears from your credit report after six years. If your credit score has gone down because you’ve struggled to make repayments in the past, time could be a great healer.

You’ll see a bad credit score sitting in ranges called ‘very poor’ and ‘poor’.

Bad credit score ranges

EquifaxExperianTransUnion
Very poor*0-4380-5600-550
Poor**439-530561-720551-565

*Referred to as Poor by Equifax

**Referred to as Fair by Equifax

  • Experian’s ‘poor’ range sits between 561 and 720, while a ‘very poor’ score sits between 0 and 560.
  • Equifax’s ‘fair’ range sits between 439 and 530 and its ‘poor’ score sits between 0 and 438, but these two ranges may be more comparable with the ‘poor’ and ‘very poor’ ranges used by the other agencies.
  • For TransUnion, a ‘poor’ score sits between 551 and 565 and a ‘very poor’ score sits between 0 and 550.

Do you need a good credit score for a loan, credit card or mortgage?

Your credit score doesn’t guarantee the outcome of a credit application, regardless of whether you sit in a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ range. Checking your credit score can only give you an indication of how lenders may view your application.

This is because each lender has its own system for working out your creditworthiness, often using data from your credit file and the information you share during your application to decide whether to offer you credit (and at what interest rate). 

Some lenders may also use open banking technology to connect to your bank account and view details about your income and outgoings, with your permission. This is another way to assess your creditworthiness, usually alongside a traditional credit check.

Because credit comes in different shapes and sizes, these checks can vary by product. With a mortgage, for example, you’re usually borrowing more and taking on more risk than a personal loan, so a lender’s checks will be more thorough.

Credit reference agencies calculate credit scores based on your credit report, but your score can still give you an idea of what products you might be eligible for. But each lender has its own application criteria and usually looks at your credit file as a whole rather than your score.

You can often check your eligibility for a credit product without it affecting your credit score using a soft credit check. It’s worth doing this before applying because too many hard checks in a short period of time can impact your credit score negatively.

If you’ve been refused credit, requesting a statutory credit report from the agency that the lender used to check your credit file can be a good idea.

Do you need a good credit score for a mortgage?

There isn’t a minimum credit score needed to get a mortgage. However, a lower credit score may mean mortgage lenders see you as a higher risk. You are unlikely to be offered the most competitive mortgage rates and some firms may refuse your application.

A mortgage lender will consider your credit history as just one element of your application. It will also consider your income and spending when deciding if you can keep up with repayments. As part of the affordability evaluation, it will also test whether you could manage to keep up with repayments if interest rates were to rise suddenly.

It will decide whether to approve your mortgage application using all of this information.

A poor credit history doesn’t ruin your chances of getting a mortgage, although your options may be more limited. Most lenders will ask for a larger deposit and charge higher rates of interest for bad credit mortgages.

» MORE: Who are the best mortgage lenders?

Do you need a good credit score for a personal loan?

A good credit score can indicate that you’ll be more likely to get a personal loan at a competitive rate, but it doesn’t guarantee the outcome of your application.

When deciding whether to offer you a loan, a lender will check your credit history to see if you’re a reliable borrower and have a good track record of paying your debts on time.

A lender will also look at your income and employment status to see if you have a steady income and can afford the repayments.

It’s still possible to get loans for bad credit. But these loans tend to be more expensive and there’s a smaller pool of lenders to choose from.

It’s always worth using a free online loan eligibility checker before applying for a new loan.

» MORE: What is the best personal loan?

Do you need a good credit score for a credit card?

As with a mortgage or personal loan, your credit score doesn’t necessarily determine the outcome of your application.

Lenders will check your credit history and ask for details, such as your employment status and income, to work out whether you’re eligible for a credit card. A lower credit score often means you’ll be offered a higher interest rate or lower credit limit

There are still options available if you have a poor credit history but want to apply for a credit card. Some lenders offer credit cards for bad credit, though they tend to charge higher rates of interest and offer lower credit limits.

Credit builder cards can fall under this category. These cards are designed for people with poor or limited credit histories who want to build a history of making repayments on time. These accounts sometimes allow you to track your credit score, or even come with interest rate reductions if you make several repayments on time. You may receive a lower credit limit and higher interest rate than a regular card, but when managed responsibly, they can help you improve your credit score.

» MORE: Compare credit cards

Do you need a good credit score for an overdraft?

A bank will usually do a hard check on your credit file before deciding whether to offer you an overdraft. It will also take the amount you’re applying for into consideration, as well as your annual income.

A good credit score may indicate that you’ll receive your preferred overdraft limit, but your credit score won’t guarantee the outcome of your application. Keep in mind that an overdraft can affect your credit score.

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